How to Talk to an Argumentative Child

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24 Apr 2013

parentingIn this week’s Parsha- Kdoshim, it says:

“Speak to the entire congregation of the children of Israel and say to them: You should be holy, because I, G-d your G-d, am holy. Every person should fear his mother and father, observe My Sabbaths, for I am G-d your G-d”

It seems as if being holy is somehow tied with the mitzvah of Kibud Av Veem (honoring one’s parents).

According to Wendy Mogel, Blessing of the Skinned Knee, encourages modern parents to teach children to respect them.

“Your children will only accept your guidance and heed your advice if they respect you. In fact, it’s fair to say that if you don’t teach your children to honor you, you’ll have a very hard time teaching them anything else.”

It is only when we have commanded the respect of our children that we can teach them our values our morals and ethics. If they don’t respect us then it will be very hard for them to listen to us. We are the first authority figures that they meet, the next ones are there grandparents, teachers, coaches and eventually their bosses.

Kids need help learning to reign in their behavior now so that they can learn to manage later on. It may seems as if they want to be allowed to do whatever they want, but it does not bode well for them down the line if we do not put our foot down.

It is interconnected though. Kids will only accept limits from those that they respect and that needs to be learned from parents.

This can be very tricky for modern parents, especially when they are dealing with an argumentative child.

Here are 2 simple ways to handle your argumentative child:

1. Don’t talk when you are angry:

If you have problems keeping your cool when your child argues with you then your best bet is not to say anything but, “I am going into the other room to cool down.” Then walk away. Some kids like to get a rise out of their parents and that is why they argue. Walking away, does not let them draw you into a fight which is what they want most. It is the best way to take the wind out of their sails. It also helps you maintain your dignity and command respect.

When you have calmed down you can say, “Now I am ready to talk. Can you tell me what you need in a respectful tone?” If he can’t then just repeat the above process.

It takes a while to train kids, but it can be done.


2. Answer a question with a question:

Many times children ask questions when they argue. They use this technique as a way to wiggle out of the limits parents set for them. They can say,
“Why can’t I play on the computer? Why do you have to be so strict?”


Questions sometimes are effective in getting parents to change their mind and retract the rules that they have set for their kids. Kids know it. They love a good debate and some kids can argue for hours, using questions ceaselessly. It can wear down the resistance of the most patient of parents.

The best way to handle this type of arguing is to reflect your child’s feelings and gently turn the question back to them:
You can say,
“It sounds like you’re annoyed with having to turn off the computer. Why do you think it is time to turn it off? What is it about computers that makes it a privilege not a right?

This technique is a soft way to let kids know you are going to stick to your rules that you have set. Most parenting experts have found that kids feel more safe and secure when parents are firm about their rules. Although kids will fight long and hard, they do not want to win the arguments that they have set in motion. When kids see that you mean business they will learn to stop fighting the family rules. They will learn that arguing does not work.

Handling argumentative kids takes a strong parent but it will help you help your child carry on the mission of the Jewish people. You can only be holy if you start off by respecting your parents.


Adina Soclof, MS. CCC-SLP, works as a Parent Educator for Bellefaire Jewish Children’s Bureau facilitating How to Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk workshops as well as workshops based on Siblings Without Rivalry. Adina also runs

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.